With winter upon us, the risk for slip and fall accidents due to snow and ice increase. While snow and ice are considered “natural hazards” that are beyond property owners’ control, there are circumstances under which residential and commercial property owners can be held liable for winter weather-related accidents in New Jersey. For example, if a business fails to keep its floors dry, or if a homeowner shovels away the snow leaving a layer of compacted ice, then someone who slips and falls may be entitled to financial compensation.
Dealing with snow and ice in the wintertime is a fact of life for New Jersey residents. With an average snowfall of roughly two feet per year, we get just enough snow to snarl traffic and create hazardous conditions in parking lots, on sidewalks and driveways, and on the roads.
Slip-and-fall accidents involving snow and ice are very common. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly 2,000 workers in New Jersey suffer injuries in snow and ice-related slip and falls each year. This figure only reflects job-related accidents. Far more people slip and fall on their personal time, whether while out shopping, attending appointments, or simply enjoying the winter landscape.
What Are Your Legal Rights If You Slipped and Fell on Snow or Ice in New Jersey?
So, what are your legal rights if you were injured as a result of slipping and falling on snow or ice in New Jersey? The answer depends on a number of different factors, including: (i) where you slipped, (ii) what you were doing when you slipped, and (iii) whether the owner of the property where you fell acted reasonably in preventing unnecessarily hazardous conditions.
1. Where Did You Slip and Fall?
Under New Jersey law, commercial property owners and business tenants owe different legal duties than residential homeowners. Businesses and homeowners can both be held liable for snow and ice-related accidents under varying circumstances, and claims against businesses and homeowners will both typically be covered by insurance (general liability insurance in the case of a business, and homeowner’s insurance in the case of the residential property).
2. What Were You Doing When You Slipped and Fell?
When the weather gets bad, property owners are not the only ones who have a legal obligation to act reasonably. If a person slips and falls because he or she is playing around or being reckless, the law will generally hold that person accountable (or at least partially accountable) for his or her own injuries. On the other hand, if you were being careful and you slipped and fell due to a hazard that could have reasonably been mitigated or eliminated, then you may be entitled to full financial compensation for your injury-related losses.
3. What Are the Property Owner’s (or Tenant’s) Legal Obligations?
When snow or ice accumulates on the ground, businesses have a legal duty to protect their guests from unreasonably dangerous property conditions. This does not necessarily mean that they have to shovel snow and scrape ice immediately – it may be impractical or imprudent to do so, especially in the midst of an ongoing storm – but it does mean that they have to take reasonable precautions to prevent unnecessary injuries. Depending on the specific circumstances, this may mean doing things like:
- Placing warning signs in front of potentially-dangerous areas
- Placing anti-skid mats at entranceways and keeping interior floors dry of melted ice and snow
- Shoveling and salting sidewalks and parking lots
- Hiring a snow removal company (which may also be liable if it fails to create a safe condition)
Under New Jersey law, residential homeowners are held to a lower standard. Homeowners generally are not required to remove snow and ice in order to create safe walkways, but they can be held liable for negligent acts such as shoveling away snow to reveal compacted ice or piling up snow in a location that blocks pedestrian or vehicle traffic. In other words, the general rule for homeowners is that they cannot make the conditions worse than they already are. In any case, if you have been seriously injured due to a slip on ice or snow, you should discuss the circumstances with a personal injury attorney to find out if you are entitled to financial compensation.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you slipped and fell on ice or snow and suffered injuries requiring medical attention, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation.
While slip and fall injuries, commonly known as premises liability incidents, may not be as dramatic or as noticeable as auto or airplane accidents, injuries sustained on another’s property can still result in life-threatening conditions that have long-term effects on both the injured party and his or her family.
If you, a friend, or family member have suffered from an injury including broken bones, burns, electrical shocks, or head, spinal cord, neck, or other serious injuries following a slip and fall accident, a premises liability attorney at Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo can inform you of your legal rights. Our attorneys will work to hold the responsible parties accountable for your losses and help you seek the medical treatment you need and compensation you deserve.
Susan Petro, who heads the Personal Injury department of Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo and is also the Managing Partner of the firm, along with Rich Gaeckle and Mike Veneziani, will handle your personal injury case, fighting for full and fair compensation in every case they handle.
To speak with one of our New Jersey personal injury lawyers in confidence, please call us at 888-675-7607 or inquire online today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation at one of our four offices in southern NJ (Northfield, Cherry Hill, Cape May, Hamilton). We work on a contingency fee basis, so you will only pay our legal expenses if we can successfully make a settlement on your behalf. The time is limited to pursue a claim in New Jersey, so it is important that you file your premise liability lawsuit within the statute of limitations.